There can’t be many people reading this post who have not heard of ‘Big Data’, and many of us will have heard it on a regular basis for some time now.
Conferences, reports, discussions and even whole new businesses have been set up with this title and with the ambition to bring new understanding and advantage into the economy from the availability of the rapidly increasing data sets. The truth of course is that the data on its own doesn’t present answers to our business challenges, we also need to analyse, interrogate and contextualise that data in order to draw out the intelligence we’re seeking. In other words it’s not Big Data we need, its Big Answers.
Business Leaders need to understand and put in place the processes by which raw data becomes business intelligence and wisdom. On that basis all of our businesses can take advantage and build new products, services and customer experiences based on this improved wisdom. And so, for example, by analysing various data sets we might be able to find relationships between two issues which we’d never understood before. These might be direct relationships e.g. costs and resources used. Or they might be indirect or causational links – relationships, networks, engagement.
In your business, what skills and expertise do you already have to be able to move from data to wisdom? Many large companies have people with the job title “Data Scientist” or similar and this is certainly a role set to grow in number, demand and in technical and strategic importance. And it’s vital that the people with the skills to interpret and manipulate our data sets are heavily involved in future business planning processes too, not just at the marketing end, but in the overall strategy – looking to feed in ideas for innovations, product improvements, service enhancement, customer experience advances and more.
But where to start in considering data and digital in your business?
Well, a good starting point is to produce a data register or audit document. Start listing all of the data which your business currently holds, e.g. customer records, sales, inventory, partnerships and collaborations, supplier records, but also data which flows from digital channels already in some cases – social media feedback and engagement levels for example. Once you’ve listed all of the data sources the next step is to consider (in an ideal world scenario) what data would truly enhance your ability to develop future business plans and gain commercial advantage – your data wish-list. This list can include some far-reaching ideas, but will also produce some which are short-term worth investigating and may become available or at least accessible to you. Some will be available but at a cost and so you need to consider if the advantage you’ve considered would produce a return on investment or not. Data has been a business commodity for many years as we know, and at the current time that’s even more true. At the same time there is a push from many organisations to ensure that many data sets remain as ‘public property’, including those produced from public sector activities. The Open Data Initiative is working nationally to develop agreements and frameworks which would enable data from public sources to be used for private sector purposes, and this is replicated in many other countries of course. So consider which public data sets would truly benefit your business plan – population, travel, health, unemployment, etc.
Businesses which understand the power of data and how to use it in the future will be able to achieve competitive advantage.
For more details on the need for improved Digital Leadership – please read our recently published White Paper which you can access here. Sign up now to one of Cosmic’s Digital Leadership taster courses running this year – more details here.